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Will South Africa 2010 produce a new Pele?

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Tim Vickery | 16:10 UK time, Monday, 23 November 2009

Last Thursday was the 40th anniversary of Pele's 1,000th goal when he rolled a penalty past the Vasco da Gama keeper in his favourite stadium - the Maracana.

Subsequent research has revealed that the milestone had probably been reached a few matches earlier and the achievement is open to question anyway, as the numbers were inflated with goals scored in army matches and so on.

The point is, though, that Pele's greatness as a footballer cannot be reduced to grim statistical accumulation. He is remembered not for scoring over 1,000 goals, but for shining so brightly for so long at the highest level of the game.

Pele and the World Cup are synonymous. And it is a testament to his extraordinary quality as a player that I don't believe the tournament ever really saw the best of him.

Pele scores his 1,000th goalPele picks the ball out of the net after scoring against Vasco da Gama in November 1969

Pele's international career reads like the classic play in three acts. He emerges as a teenager, captures the hearts of fans everywhere and is recognised as the king of football. But then he has to put up with problems, especially when he is kicked out of the 1966 World Cup, and becomes disillusioned for a while.

But when it looks as if his time as a player might turn into something of an anti-climax, he comes roaring back at the hub of one of the world's favourite teams of all time.

His time in the Brazil shirt is book ended with the World Cup wins of 1958 and 70. But I would argue that the best bit could have come in the middle.

In Sweden in '58 he was full of contagious exuberance, but he was raw, and still looked like a scrawny kid. By Mexico '70 he could write the encyclopaedia of football backwards. He could improvise brilliant moves, but was also a master at picking the moment for the simple pass. But, perhaps in a response to the events of '66, he had bulked up, and was less mobile than he had been in the early sixties.

By his own account and that of most observers, his best ever display came in Lisbon for Santos against Benfica for the World Club Championship in October 1962. Wearing the number 10 shirt he made his own, he kept charging through the defence like a force of nature as his team beat the European champions 5-2.

The pity is that he was unable to do this for more than a single game a few months earlier in the World Cup in Chile. Of all his World Cup goals, my favourite is one which is little remembered, precisely because it came in that tournament.

In the opening match against Mexico he took on the entire defence and beat them all. It is a goal with everything; audacity and vision, acceleration and sustained pace, incredible power, balance, tight dribbling and two footed ability, the shot fired home off his left foot after most of the work had been done with his right, but in the next match he picked up an injury and played no further part in the tournament.

Pele injured during the 1966 World CupPele was kicked out of the 1966 World Cup in England

Chile '62 could have been to Pele what Mexico '86 was to Diego Maradona. In 1982, Maradona was too green to cope with the expectations and the intimidation. By 1990, his body was already suffering from the prolonged battering handed it out to it by opponents on the field and his increasingly wayward lifestyle off it.

But in '86 he had it all. At the peak of his powers he was a footballing machine, a player capable of the most brilliant individual virtuosity who also understood how his talent fitted in the collective context.

I mention all this not only to dwell on things which give me pleasure, but mainly to put forward the view that Maradona's World Cup, Mexico 86, was the last truly great version of the tournament.

All the subsequent World Cups have thrown up intriguing narrative lines. But in terms of the spectacle on the field some have been mediocre - 94, 98 and 2006, for example - and the others have been poor.

Italia '90 is remembered fondly by England fans, but the largely defensive and petulant football is not remembered at all fondly by almost everyone else - and from a technical point of view, 2002 was a disaster. Held early to avoid the rainy season in Japan and South Korea, there was insufficient time for players to recover from the rigours of the newly extended European season.

Fifa have since taken steps to try and protect its premier competition. An early cut-off point for domestic football seeks to ensure that players have enough gas in the tank to put on a show in South Africa and the qualification process seems to have done Fifa a favour this time as it seems that almost all of the greats, and those who can legitimately aspire to greatness, will be present.

Increasingly, of course, the Champions League is where players have to perform consistently well to gain a reputation. But the World Cup is special. Its power of representation is unmatched by any other sporting event, as shown last week by reactions from Algeria to Uruguay. Appearing in the World Cup remains the highpoint of many a career, and shining in it can make a name for life.

I'm hoping that today's collection of top players can rise to the occasion in South Africa next year, whichever shirt they are wearing - so that in some 30 years time their exploits can be recounted as this article briefly did with Pele and Maradona. Football needs a great World Cup. It's been too long since the last one.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Other questions on South American football tovickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) I keep an avid eye on how Brazil are faring. I always enjoy your take on things, but you, and all other journalists, seem to often neglect to mention Diego of Juventus. Why is Diego not playing? Is there perhaps an argument, such as Maradona with Riquelme; or maybe Dunga just doesn't appreciate him.

Carlos Eduardo is a good player, but if he can get a chance, as he did on Saturday, why can Diego, surely one of the best play makers in the world, not even get on the bench. I can certainly see a place for him in that role that Elano or Ramires plays.
Oliver Davies

A player who's close to my heart, I saw Diego's debut in the 2002 Brazilian Championship and was raving about him inside the first four minutes, and soon telling anyone who would listen that there was a Brazilian mini-Zidane on the way.
He made his international debut back in 2003, and I'm sorry to have to say it, but he's won 28 caps without doing very much. It's been a bits and pieces career - a game here, a substitute appearance there. But Brazil produce so many players that when the opportunity comes it has to be seized.

Dunga carried him round for a couple of years, Diego didn't do too much and so I can understand why he lost patience with him. I wrote a piece on another website last year suggesting that the Olympic tournament might be make or break for his international career, short term at least - unhappily he didn't do well and hasn't been back in since.

I continue to admire his talent - but I don't think he could perform the same function as Elano or Ramires. That's a mixed midfield job they do down the right - one of the key ideas is that they cover for the forward breaks of Maicon, and that's not Diego's game.
I do think the team need a Plan B, but the way things are going it's more likely that Ronaldinho will provide it. Diego's only 24, though, so time is still on his side.

Q) What do you think about the chances of Ronaldo making the Brazilian squad again?
Faizal Buksh

A) This could be one of the stories to watch out for next year, as Romario versus Luiz Felipe Scolari was in 2002. At the moment Dunga doesn't need him - the strikers he's picking are full of goals - and it's questionable whether he wants him. Dunga took over on a team-over-stars ticket, a response to the failure of the big names in Germany '06, where some saw Ronaldo as a bad influence.

That was Ronaldo's team - the current one is led by Lucio and Kaka, meaning that the religious fanatics, with their rigour and sobriety, have replaced the bohemians. But Ronaldo has an excellent platform to make his case. Playing for Corinthians in the Copa Libertadores in their centenary year - if he keeps scoring then the media bandwagon will start rolling - and maybe with an injury or two to players in the current group the pressure for a recall will mount.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Will South Africa 2010 produce a new Pele?

    ----------------------------------

    NO!

  • Comment number 2.

    Strange to me that most search obsessively for an individual in a team sport. Sure, Maradona in particular carried his team almost singlehandedly (they were pretty good, but without Maradona, not exceptional). But the Italians in 1982 and 2006 were a triumph of the collectivist ethic. No real superstars, but a team that was more than the sum of its parts. That's just as admirable, if less easy to glorify....I'm sure Bearzot and Lippi didn't feel any less proud for not having a World Titan in their XI when their captain lifted the trophy.....



  • Comment number 3.

    I don't think the World Cup will ever produce a new Pele again, simply because the game has moved on too much for any single player to make THAT much of an impact, to become THAT important to any side.

    It could very well become a great World Cup nonetheless, but it won't be a sustained individual star performance that makes it so.

    THE big question for me is whether or not a European side will finally manage to lay their hands on the trophy outside the Old Continent...

    ClubWorldRankings.com

  • Comment number 4.

    "It is a goal with everything; audacity and vision, acceleration and sustained pace, incredible power, balance, tight dribbling and two footed ability, the shot fired home off his left foot after most of the work had been done with his right, but in the next match he picked up an injury and played no further part in the tournament."

    That's quite a long sentence.

    "his body was already suffering from the prolonged battering handed it out to it by opponents"

    I don't think the first 'it' should be there.

    That's just me being pedantic about grammar. The blog itself is brilliant as per.

  • Comment number 5.

    Tim,

    Another good and interesting read. Having only seen Pele in highlights reels it is difficult to judge his overall play. Does anyone know of anywhere to find full length matches from the Pele era - such as the Santos v Benfica match?

    On the direct point about whether South Africa 2010 will produce a new Pele I'd have to say no. Not because of the impact one particular player could have, or the kind of quality one could show, but because we are all too familiar with everyone playing.

    I remember during the build up to 2006 that almost every country's warm up game was on the telly somewhere. Furthermore and as rightly pointed out, most of the top players find their way into the Champions League so are seen week in week out.

    The impact of Pele, Cruff and Maradona on World Cups was romantic to the extent that viewers were captivated by what they were doing with a football. TV coverage has dampened that and although we can still appreciate quality the players are not, as individuals, seen by the masses with a childlike naivety for what to expect.

    http://thoughtsonfootball.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 6.

    There's a huge difference between 2002 Romario and 2009 (or 2010) Ronaldo. Romario, with Ronaldo injured for so long and Rivaldo for a while (they recovered for the tournament only), was easily the best Brazilian player. He was still in pretty good physical form for a 36 year old, and no Brazilian scored more goals in 1998, 1999 and 2000, and Brazilian Championship top goalscored in 2000 and 2001.

    Meanwhile, Ronaldo is (obviously) overweight, has been nowhere near as consistent as Romario was, and is certainly not close to be the best player, or the best Brazilian striker.

    Also, Ronaldo will most likely be left out for Luis Fabiano and Adriano, two world class strikers. Scolari chose Luisao, who was a good striker, but certainly not in Romario's level.

    About Diego: I think he had a pretty good Olympics, had an excellent game against Chile for the WC qualifiers, but after an horrible match against Bolivia (where no one had a good match), simply vanished for the squad. Dunga gave more opportunities to players like Kleber and Gilberto for much longer periods, and keeps Robinho on the team despite the fact he hasn't had more than 2 or 3 good games for Brazil in the last 2 years (and with a much worse attitude), so I don't know why he hasn't been called again.

    Anyway, nah, 2010 will not produce a new Pele.

  • Comment number 7.

    If any player will it will be Ronaldo the portugal one.

  • Comment number 8.

    Jermaine Defoe - obviously

  • Comment number 9.

    7 - I can't see why Cristiano is a better candidate for this role than Messi.

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Tim

    The Brazil teams of 58/62 and 70 were (defence aside) the best teams in those tournaments so should have won,with or without Pele. Thats why Maradona wins hands down for me because if ever one man had impact them it was in 1986 as im sure without Maradona, Argentina wouldnt have won it.

    Tim, why no mention of Uruguay? They didnt lose a World Cupmatch for24 years!!

    The winners of 1930 and 1950 qualified last week and two blogs have passed. Talking of impact in a World Cup, Obdulio Varela probably tops Pele and Maradona for influencing a World Cup.

  • Comment number 11.

    The truth is..these players are only one or two in a century. The two biggest stars Messi and Ronaldo probably could never single-handedly carry a team. Ronaldo will have the best chance, because he is the most complete player on the planet, right now..no doubt.

  • Comment number 12.

    There`s only one Pele...well I guess there was Abede Pele too. But I think that we shouldn`t neccessarily be looking for a new Pele. That is almost impossible to find. But a new Zidane or Van Basten or Rossi would make for a great world cup. Yes football is a team game (and even the above mentioned needed their less illustrious team mates to be as good as they were), but there is something wonderful about a skillfull, intelligent, pacy, strong, graceful, making it all look easy player who makes seasoned internationals look like oafs. I never saw Pele live, but am old enough to have seen a bit of Cruyff and Kempes, and of course Maradonna in his greater years. He was fantastic. I well remember the Brasil of `82...Zico,Socrates, Eder, Falcao etc. Great, great players. I was so dissappointed to see them lose 3-2 to Italy that day. Almost cried. Zidane was quite exceptional too, though not in Maradonna`s or Pele`s class. And Pavel Nedved was quite useful in his day. Not forgetting Kenny Dalglish of course, who along with George Best was Britains best ever player, I think. But lets hope for a great world cup with some wonderful football, with maybe some youngsters shining through...though cant really think of any obvious choices at the mo :)

    Great blog as ever Tim!

  • Comment number 13.

    Well the real reason why we don't have really interesting and competitive matches in the World Cup is the increased number of teams. 32 I believe is too many, It not only stops big teams taking on each other but also leads to numerous one sided matches.

    Secondly the club teams are much better today and play better football even though it may be hard to quantify as there are no head on head matches.

    Brazil better than Barcelona or England better than Chelsea team, any team playing puristic football as Arsenal does in World Cup not in a light year as they only get 3-4 weeks to gel.

    Italia 90 apart from defensive was a decent world cup far better than the other that followed it. There were more cliff hanger matches than the latter ones.

    Rise of Cameroon, emergence of Baggio, that Czech team I believe it was really good, Yugoslavia vs Argentina, Brazil vs Argentina, Italy vs Argentina, Germany vs Netherlands and many others. There were so many closely contested matches even though they were low scoring.

  • Comment number 14.

    For indidual players being heroes and lighting up tournaments, see Zinny Zidane. Surely he ranks as a modern day great? Not on quite the same level as Maradona and Pele, but not too far off.

    It would be awesome to see another player emerge like that, but I don't expect it to happen this tournament, unless Ronaldo goes bonkers and destroys everyone. To be honest, its the world cup - surely its going to be great one way or another. I thought Germany was a good tournament, Euro 2008 was special with Spain living up to expectations for the first time in years - 2002 was a dud for the conditions and the knackred european players, 1998 was a good tournament too.

    I can't wait

  • Comment number 15.

    Lothar Matthaus was one of the great players ever as were/are Beckenbauer, Buffon no-one remembers defenders.

  • Comment number 16.

    What players can make the impact that Pele made this time around? Lionel Messi is playing in a very average Argentina which do not look good enough for the cup, Ronaldo at Portugal is the same. The teams that look the biggest challengers are Spain, Brazil and Germany with the addition of Italy, France, England and Holland. Those teams function as units rather than relying on their individual talents, if any players were to shine it would be Iniesta and Torres of Spain or Kaka of Brazil but it will be the team and not the individual that shines the next world cup.

  • Comment number 17.

    diego armando maradona was the greatest ever player to kick a football.yes pele had a more glittering career but lets not forget pele hid in the brazilian league all his career while maradona went to europe and took a very small club like napoli and in previous years they had won nothing,and he won them 2 leaugue titles a uefa cup and the italian cup.brazilian football was very attacking and the defending was awful in peles era while maradona played in the toughest league in the world (serie a) were players like henry, ronaldo and bergkamp failed to shine.eric cantona once famously quoted that if you take pele away from the brazilian national team they still would have won the world cup unlike with argentina because if you take maradona away they would win nothing.pele always had great players around him like garrincha , tostao , jairzinho ,rivelinho , alberto , gerson ,santos , and many more.maradona had mediocre players with him, this man had to carry his club and national team.nobody has won a world cup like maradona in the history of the game.remember pele only played half a world cup in 58 and in 62 half a game..in 66 he was booted out and in 70 that was a team preformance.many people including bobby robson and sir alf ramsey say maradona was the better player...modern players like zidane henry rooney ronaldo maldini and many many more all agree that diego was the best.look when the fans voted him the player of the century at the 2000 fifa awrds..so embarrasing for pele..maradona was football!!!

  • Comment number 18.

    4 - right on both counts. The first one is down to the subs - in the text i sent the last clause was the start of a new para.

    the second one is all my own work. well spotted!

  • Comment number 19.

    10 - I was down in Montevideo to see Uruguay qualify - have writen lots about them over the last few days in other places, and was a bit Uruguayed-out when it came to choosing a theme for this piece.

    This one was nearly on the gripping ending to the Brazilian championship, but i think we'll get there in 2 weeks time....

    ... speaking of which, that sounds like real bitterness towards Ronaldo from Mengo2008 (no6) - clearly not over the fact thathe snubbed your lot and went to play for Corinthians!

  • Comment number 20.

    10 - why 'defence aside' when talking about the merits of Brazil in 58/ They didn't concede until the semis - had never been done before - due to
    1 - excllence of defensive personnel
    - new Brazilian invention, the back 4, giving extra cover.

  • Comment number 21.

    Tim,

    Great blog, despite a few mistakes. You seem to advocate an idea that a WC needs a dominant player to be a sucess. Not really. '82 and '70 were the ultimate team competitions and are widely regarded as some of the greatest, arguably better than '74 and '86 (dominated by Cruijff and Maradona). I believe a standout player will always grace the competition, but more in a sense of complementing a tournament characterized by the fluency and greatness of the winning team and overall team football. Hence it's a bit of a paradox that '86 was so great when the winning team was so average. We must also acknowledge that Euro'08, perhaps the greatest tournament since Mexico'06 will be remembered as the ultimate team football tournament, Spain, Russia, Holland and Croatia.
    With regards to 2010, someone said Messi can't do the same because he's gonna lead a very average Argentina. Well, it's a very similar scenario to '86. Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney and Kaká could be the great stars of the show.

    #17 - I think you're pretty far off mate. Pele was the greatest football player ever. Maradona had more natural skills with a football, but Pele was the full package, what makes the total footballer.
    Comparing leagues and its standards (Brazilian v Italian) is poor, specially when there's a 20 year gap between them. When Pele played, all of the great South American players were down there, and Santos constantly played in Europe for at least 1/4 of the year because teams wanted to play Pele. And he trounced them. To say he hid in the league is insulting and ignorant. Defending at Pele's time was perhaps poorer because of its age and characteristics. So would Di Stefano, Charlton or Best be worst than van Basten and Ronaldo due to toughness of the defence? I don't think so. You said no-one wins a WC like Maradona does. No-one wins a WC aged 17 like Pele did! It goes back to the team argument we've been having in this forum.

  • Comment number 22.

    14 - think i agree with zidane - though i'm still angry with him for the absurd, straight out of kindergarten way that he ended it all.

  • Comment number 23.

    Posts about Pele never playing in Europe are so silly. In general, until the later 70s and early 80s, players did tend to stay in their country of birth. There were notable exceptions, but they were just that, exceptions. And Pele played for possibly the finest team in the world at the time in Santos. Real Madrid feared the Santos team so much, they only played them once, at the end of a grueling game-every-2-days Santos tour, won the game 0ne-nil, and then refused a rematch.

    Pele was the consummate player, to my reckoning, because more than Maradona, he was an ambassador for the sport, a great team player, and could do pretty much everything with both feet, and could head the ball better than many far taller than himself. Maradona was decidedly left-footed. Can't say I ever saw him doing much right-footed except run and walk. He became a victim of his fame, and could not deal with it, and his performances suffered variably because of it. He was certainly not the player I would consider a vital part of a team ethic. 2 totally different, highly skilled players who ultimately can't ever be compared because of a decade of separation in their playing careers. I think their post-playing careers say more about the men than their playing careers do, however...

  • Comment number 24.

    I do agree with all the points on the importance of the team - as I argued a few weeks ago in a blog on Messi, I think that one of the great truths about football is tha the individual shines when the collective balance of the side is correct.
    As, for example, Zidane shone last time round with Malouda and Ribery either side of him to do the running.
    Or Italy had a lovely axis between Pirlo and Totti, with runners ready to pick up the first time lay-offs Totti was giving.

  • Comment number 25.

    23 - one thing you can never throw at Maradona is the accusation that he lacked a team ethic. Invariably those who payed with him adore him because he was a giver, a man overflowing in team ethic who wanted the team to win.
    Pele is not always remembered with such affection by those who played alongside him.

  • Comment number 26.

    The Pele - good, Maradona bad thing says more about the idiocy of much of the international media than anything else, the laziness of following a simplistic line.

    Both are human beings who became the players they were not only because of unbelievable talent, but also because of a huge drive to succeed - people like that usually have their fair share of flaws and defects.

    Maradona had said some silly things in his time, but he's never proclaimed himself 'superior' to Martin Luther King, as Pele did a few years ago.

  • Comment number 27.

    So True Tim regarding 'Maradona the giver'. If one sees the matches again apart from the goals maradona scored almost all other came from passes from him. If I can recall correctly apart from a couple of goals scored by Batistuta against Greece in 1994 almost all the goals came from Maradona passes. The Cannegia - Maradona partnership was awesome, it may be against Brazil or against Italy in Semi Final.

    Unlike most who remembers him either for the hand of god or the magic goal few minutes later, I remember him for having the audacity to hit a penalty kick against Zenga to almost same sport at exactly same velocity to the one that was saved by the Yugoslavian goal keeper three four days before.

  • Comment number 28.

    Tim, you mention 1970 and 1986 having great individual performances. Don't you think that has something to do with the host nation in either case, that being Mexico, with lots of European players wilting under the heat and suffering from dehydration etc.

    Most of the videos I have seen from either tournament do allude to this with little or no closing down.

    If this hypothesis is indeed true, the likelihood of the next WC being remembered for individual greatness should be high.

  • Comment number 29.

    28 - if you're right, then we might have cause to worry. This will be the first winter World Cup since 78 -conditions could favour the chasers and the harriers.

  • Comment number 30.

    Hello Mr. Vickery,

    I have a question, what is the player not currently included in the plans of Dunga, that the people in general (popularity-wise) want to see playing for Brazil?

  • Comment number 31.

    19 and 20

    Apologies Tim, i didnt see anything else you'd written but where can i see these?

    Hence why i dont write blogs, defence aside meant the 1970 squad.

    Hey,all 5 qualifies are from the Southern part of the continent,i hope none are in the same group come next year.

  • Comment number 32.

    31 - a couple in te next World Soccer magazine, one in a website in Canada (cbc) and tomorrow's in Sports Illustrted will touch on Uruguay.

    I think the South American teams will al be kept apart in the draw.

  • Comment number 33.

    I sure did forget that South Africa is in the southern hemisphere. Had a look at average temperatures in June and July; even for the games being played mid-day, it should still in the mid 10s.

    As you say, that should suit the runners. Surely, that increases the possibility we might finally see a European team triumph outside Europe?

  • Comment number 34.

    The modern game is characterised by immense physicality. There are so much more muscle and pace involved nowadays. The era in which Pele and Maradona flourished was devoid of this. You have two sceens; one showing a game during the 70s, the other a replay of the tottenham-wigan game. It would immediately occur to you that the former screen is just about as good as an inanimate object, apart from the ball and the player reins it. That is exactly why they were able to samba and tango their way through the opposition territory. On the other hand, you look at the top of the range flair players today; as soon as they receive the ball, 3-4 hound dogs rush out of no where to harass them and smother them to the point of a foul, or even better an injury.

    Given the brutal nature of the modern game, for any player to shine and break into that list of Pele and Maradona etc. constant contribution to a flowing team-play is an absolute minimum. Individual talent just would not do. Just take the example of Messi. We have seen the best of him for Barcelona mostly, thanks to the team-playing nature they have adopted. But you don't here much about his magic after international games do you?

  • Comment number 35.

    Phil, a quick question which im not sure if you've already covered, in a hypathetical "gun to your head" scenario who would you say is most likely to win the world cup in South Africa ?

    Personally I think Brazil have to go in as favourites but Germany look as dangerous as ever and I could see them flourishing in the cool climate.

    I'd love to hear any views on this from fellow posters as well, please indulge me.

  • Comment number 36.

    I can't see South Africa 2010 producing another Pele simply because with technology, the internet and modern international scouting networks from big clubs looking for players at younger and younger ages, there's really not many players ready to burst onto the world stage that we don't already know at least something about.

    Having watched both U-20 and U-17 World Cups there were some fantastic up-and-coming players on display. But above that level most good players in the 32 qualified teams are already pretty well known.

    But I love the World Cup. It is a special, special event and like you say Tim, hopefully we'll get a good one.

    http://www.just-football.com/

  • Comment number 37.

    "Will South Africa 2010 produce a new Pele?"
    =============
    As long as the "New Pele" got there legitimately, why not?

    However, I think even the likes of Pele & Maradona would have a harder time against some of today's better-drilled defences.

  • Comment number 38.

    "Maradona had said some silly things in his time, but he's never proclaimed himself 'superior' to Martin Luther King, as Pele did a few years ago."


    Why would Maradona want to waste his time comparing himself to MLK, when he appears to think he's God, or at least the next best thing to Him? ;)

  • Comment number 39.

    Oooh Mr. Vickery, you're famous...

    Just Googled on "pele superior martin luther king" to check out exactly what Pelé said, and this blog comes out right on top. It's not even 8 hours old :p

  • Comment number 40.

    38 - I don't take this statement(if true, but I doubt it would be any lie, Mr. Vickery has a reputation to protect) as a proof of Pele arrogance. There are loads of better examples, and I can even show how Maradona is more "down-to-earth" than him.

    First, Pele proclaimed himself as the best of all time. Maradona has a famous quote saying that DiStefano was better than himself.

    Second, Pele never acknowledge anybody(except Nii Lamptey and Robinho if I'm not mistaken, both blacks, and discrediting Diego at that time, who's white) as "his sucessor", often discrediting the majority of footballers after him, to the point that Romario said that "Pele is a poet when he keeps his mouth shut", Maradona by the other hand not only talked about his sucessor once or twice. Every year there's a "New Maradona", every year he can be found saying that someone plays very well, every year he is cheering for the success of Argentina. I can't remember the last time Pele said anything good about Brazil.

    Third, in the opening ceremony of 2006 World Cup I can remember the cameras focusing Pele, he seeing himself on the tv and saying "Olha la! Bonito pra caralho", which means "Look that! I'm beautiful".

    Fourth, Pele claimed that he wanted to play the 86' World Cup(46 years old), claiming that the team couldn't win it without him.

    Fifth, Since retiring, he'd never moved to do anything. Not once he managed a club, let alone Brazil. Maradona took reign of Argentina, at the risk of destroying his impressive image. What Pele always did? Claim he was the best of all time.

    I don't know much of Pele, the player. But Edson, the person, is one I'd never respect.

  • Comment number 41.

    #17: It's ridiculous to say Pele "hid" in the Brazilian League. In fact, since virtually all World Champions played there and the difference of money and general conditions of playing were smaller, it certainly can be argued that the Brazilian leagues were on a higher level than any of the European ones.

    Further evidence of that is how easy Santos beated their European opponents in the Intercontinental Cup, and how the top Brazilian teams' European tours ended up with them winning most games virtually every time.

  • Comment number 42.

    Definitely yes!
    There is already one far greater then Pele (I really don't rate guys from that time as great players): Leo Messi.

    Now we just have to hope that the Argentinian Federation screw their heads back on, kick Maradona (the greatest player ever) out of the national side and appoint a proper Manager.

  • Comment number 43.

    i have the interview in front of - with the jornal do brasil, 22-6-04, coinciding with the release of his film. it's possible, of course, that he's been misquoted, it does happen, but doesn't seem likely on this occasion.

    the journo gives him a list of 60s celebs - beatles, stones, che, mlk.

    pele adds ali to the list and says;
    "look, i'm going to tell you something. i have no doubt that pele was superior, more popular than all of them. i keep travelling a lot and i know that people still speak about pele. it's a bigger thing, of sport. there's no involvement with politics or drugs. the image that i passed was positive for everyone, i left a very good message. che guevara and luther king had political connections, the beatles and the rolling stones, unfortuantely, got involved with drugs."

    it's not his finest hour - especially as, from a safe distance, he's tried to convince people (usually the foreign press, i've never met anyone in brazil who's convinced by it) that he missed out on the 1974 world cup as a political protest against brazil's military dictatorship.

    but i can't hold these things against him too much - he's a human being, with flaws - and being idolised all over the planet as he was and is is bound to have some negative side effects - it's a human thing.

    my main complaint, as i mentioned earlier, is with the lack of imagination of the global media - the story that went around the world based on this interview was that pele had declared himself better than the beatles - a silly thing to say, perhaps, but not nearly as daft as the mlk comparison

  • Comment number 44.

    Tim, it's interesting to read your perspective on the World Cups since '86. As a relatively young fan I'm not overly familiar with Mexico '86, but I'm not sure I really go with your verdict on it and the following tournaments.

    '94 and '98 were pretty good WCs IMHO, only let down by parts of the knockout stage. In '94 everyone was thoroughly exhausted under the American sun after the semi-finals, up to which point it was very good value. World Soccer's review edition summed it up perfectly: "a tournament which, while a delicious cake, lacked the icing of true class".

    In that regard of true class, Mexico '86 would be superior, although I still feel it's harsh to call USA '94 mediocre. France '98 meanwhile did have true class, but was this time let down by one half of the knockout stage being far better than the other which meant most of the best teams were doing the damage to each other, ultimately assisting an unconvincing (for mine) France. Still, it was a pleasing tournament to watch.

    2002 and 2006 were indeed poor-to-mediocre tournaments. Personally I have mixed feelings about Mexico '86 - there were some outstanding players shining, plenty of great teams in the knockout stage and many great games (France vs. Brazil remains the best I've ever retrospectively seen in football). But I also think there were many bad signs - the increasingly prominence of penalty shoot-outs, fatigue, teams riding their luck with conservative football (and often using the penalty shoot-out as a get out option). The dreariness of Italy '90 was long coming for mine.

    In any case, I share your hope that South Africa 2010 will be a a vastly improved tournament with great players/teams truly amazing us again, succeeding and showing people what we've been missing in World Cups for too long. Great article once again.

  • Comment number 45.

    Tim
    Your title is more of a statement about who you consider the greatest footballer ,Pele, than an actual question for discussion.

    Five contradictions with the title
    1. Your suggestion that Pele never had his best World Cup, the closest being Chile 62.
    2. Maradona producing the most dominant performance in WC history, Mexico 86.
    3. Mexico 86 being the last great world cup according to you which I agree.
    4. Individual performance rather than team performance being the focus of this entry.
    5. Majority of football opinion regard Maradona the better of the two, last FIFA poll.

    This could also work:
    Will South Africa 2010 produce a new Maradona?

  • Comment number 46.

    45 - i don't write the headlines (title), that's put in by the subs. to be fair to them i think i gave them a difficult job because the article turned out being a little more contrived than i'd hoped.

    i tried to hang it on the 40th anniversary of pele's 1000th goal, and from there, riding on the drama and controversy of the world cup play-offs, move on to my perception of the overdue need for a great world cup.

    the leap was probably too big for the piece to retain full coherence - but, if we're going to fail, let it be for excess of ambition rather than the opposite!

  • Comment number 47.

    Thanks for the reply. New fan, great blog. One last question I promise, lol
    What do you think about Benfica’s argentine winger, Di Maria? How do you see his development, his likely contribution in South Africa? I am huge fan but I think his role in Benfica, assisting other players so much, might be affecting his earlier never miss opportunity culture.

  • Comment number 48.

    During Pele's era (which I was fotunate enough to witness) football was played for the love of the game. Greed has long since killed that romance. Sadly I dont think his like will ever be seen again.

  • Comment number 49.

    There will never be another player known to be as good as Pele for a number of reasons, none of them have to do with whether there is a player as good (there have been many better technically and creatively in my opinion since then).

    Pele's legend is based on the fact that he was so much better than anyone else at the time, this will never happen again due to the depth of talent in football today and the increase in tactical awareness that will prevent the best players from performing in the same way. He also benefitted from a time when we did not have blanket coverage of the sport, so people only really saw the best bits. We have seen some wonderful players in the past 20-30 years who have all been tainted by this spotlight in one form or another (Gascoigne, Maradona, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Henry, etc.).

  • Comment number 50.

    29 - I don't see this as a worry. One of the great things about football is that there is no "right" way to play the game. One of the great things about the World Cup is that there is a clash of styles.

    I don't just enjoy football matches because teams are playing "good football". I enjoy the competitiveness and diversity of football. That is what makes the sport so intriguing, the fact that Arsenal don't win the league (for example).

    I came along after Mexico '86 and USA '94, but I feel the tournaments since have not been as moribund has been suggested. France '98 saw some great matches (England V Argentina, for example), but was let down by an awful final. J/K'02 was not great on technical skill, but it was fantastic on an FA Cup Third Round kind of way, and no-one could really take any match not against Saudi Arabia or China for granted. (However, how did Germany get to that final?)

    Having said that, 2006 was not a great tournament, although certain matches were entertaining, and of course it ended with Zinedine Zidane stupidly rewriting his obituary. Australia V Croatia, for example, had everything, including some absolutely bizarre refereeing (Mr. G. Poll).

    As for Maradona and Pele, to be honest my experience of them has been in interviews and things they do for the press, by which I would have to decree they are both mad! Pele managed to predict three teams that couldn't all be in the semi finals in the semis for the 2002 World Cup, and picked 125 players for the FIFA 100 greatest living players, including one who was dead. (That was him, wasn't it? Correct me if I'm wrong.) And Maradona, well, we all know what he said to the press mere weeks ago!

    SA 2010 probably will not have a dominant player. And lets hope it doesn't. For one player to dominate a World Cup would be a scandal for such a great tournament, the Cup should be won by the best team.

  • Comment number 51.

    It is increasingly difficult for an unknown star to emerge. With the internet , no matter where a new talent might come from, we already know about it. When (especially) Pele (1958) and Maradonna emerged (Japan U15/17 world cup?) we were all amazed to see them for the first time. Compare this to Zidane, who was already a known quantity before he even played for France. Likewise, opponents already knew what to expect of Owen and Rooney in consecutive World Cups. If Ned Zelic had had the chance to play in a World Cup (developed by the Aust Institute of Sport but later played for Borrusia Dortmund and Auxerre), maybe a few would have been impressed to see him for the first time (I was when he turned out as an unknown against England B when he was fresh from the AIS), but today most talented players are already picked up by the big clubs by the age of 17. Maybe if Walcott had actually got a run-on in the last world cup, he may have flourished - Wenger made sure nobody saw him in the PL before ! who knows? Most teams are also too conservative to take a punt on a young player. Even Ronaldo (Brazil) sat it out when he was already good enough for the team.

  • Comment number 52.

    Mr Vickery,

    I am on the whole inclined to agree with your claims that we have not seen a great World Cup since 1986, the group stage in 2006 was very good but really lost it's way in the knockout phase, 2002 was poor for a number of reasons as you mentioned, and while 1994 was ok you certainly couldn't call it, 'great'.

    However, 1998 was a superb World Cup - the only disappointment being Brazil's pitiful performance in the final.

  • Comment number 53.

    Interestingly enough Tim, I did an article on Pele a while ago.

    If you would like to read my blog click on the link below:-

    http://jonnyontheball.blogspot.com/2009/07/pele-spotlight-on-great-player.html

  • Comment number 54.

    @45:

    "This could also work:
    Will South Africa 2010 produce a new Maradona?"

    The qualifiers already did: T. Henry :(

  • Comment number 55.

    Hi Tim,

    I must disagree with your assertion that the 1994 World Cup was 'mediocre'; it was the best of the modern era, with some terrific open football and plenty of high-scoring knock-out matches. Yes, the Final was awful but that was one of just a handful of poor games. Hagi, Dumitrescu, Stoichkov, Baggio, Romário and Andersson were all stars of the tournament. The matches were mostly open and played in front of colossal crowds.

  • Comment number 56.

    Religious fanatics? You call Kaka and Lucio fanatics?!

    2/3

  • Comment number 57.

    It has been mentioned.

    If you want a good world cup, you need heat and sun. And, preferably, high altitude.

    Otherwise, it's all about physical strength and not about skill.

  • Comment number 58.

    Yea I know what you mean 2of3. I guess what he means is that they're the kind who take their jerseys off when they score etc to reveal t-shirts with Christian messages on them. They're both Protestants I think, as opposed to the majority of the team which are Catholic.

  • Comment number 59.

    I can't agree about France 98 being poor! Then again I admit that I'm only 19 so I have only seen three that I can remember and this was the first one so maybe it is sentimentality on my part. Still, I thought that it was great. Spectacular goals, a few upsets and a brilliant surprise package in the form of Croatia. Loved it!

  • Comment number 60.

    Blimey Tim, talk about hard to please. I know you're a purist but surely you can't judge a World Cup based JUST on the amount of free flowing, so-called 'proper' football (although I'd like to know who decided what constitutes 'proper' football). What about the excitement of the games, quality of the goals, greatness of the individual players, or underdogs coming up trumps? All World Cups since 86 have had all these so how you can describe them as mediocre or poor is beyond me.

    I'm too young to remember 1986 it must have been a phenomenon of a tournament for you describe others since as poor or mediocre. I don't remember watching Romania-Argentina or Germany-Bulgaria in 94, Zidane in 98, or Argentinas goal against Serbia in 06 and thinking 'this is mediocre'. If your standards are that high then I have a feeling you will once again be disappointed next summer.

  • Comment number 61.

    As the poet Carlos Drummond said: "It's not difficult to score 1000 goals like Pele. It's difficult to score 1 goal like Pele".

    That pretty much covers anything that can be said about Pele.

  • Comment number 62.

    'if we're going to fail, let it be for excess of ambition rather than the opposite'

    If I dont use that phrase at least 5 times today I'll be very suprised....!

  • Comment number 63.

    Defoe ....Defoe.....Defoe....If this boy was given all the love and attention he so deserves Pele wouldnt have a look in.
    If we get to the world cup it will be because this guy has kept his form and fittness.

  • Comment number 64.

    Was astounded on the radio to hear someone call Jermaine Defoe "one of the greatest strikers in the world"....based on the fact he scored 5 against Wigan? One thing is for sure, the standout player of the World Cup will not be coming from the "greatest league in the world" as England proclaims itself. For gerrard see Xavi, for lampard see Iniesta, for rooney see Messi. The stand out player(s) this world cup will be xavi and iniesta by a mile. Great to watch and they do the things that go unnoticed sometimes which can define a game.
    Shocked to see '94 being described as mediocre? Is this because England weren't at it? I remember a world cup with an entertaining brazil side, a great swedish side, who can forget bulgaria stoichkov and his team beating germany, nigeria almost knocking out italy, with baggio, baresi and tassoti trying to assault them out the QF's...Big Jack going bonkers about the heat in Orlando...after beating Italy...Columbia, and the poor right back who was murdered for scoring an own goal...Ok the final was the worst you could possibly imagine, but the rest of the tournament was a joy to watch. And Diana Ross' penalty miss...up there with baggios in the final!

  • Comment number 65.

    Tim, I feel we almost reached the star player your article craves when Ronaldo first burst on the scene (was it three Cups ago?) - I remember being absoltely astonished by the speed of his feet and close control within the tight confines of the penalty area. Unfortunately it all ended in sadness / debacle (?) with his illness in the final, however if that last game had been different perhaps the tournament, and Ronaldo's cotribution, would be recalled more favourably.

  • Comment number 66.

    Maradonna good Pele better George Best

  • Comment number 67.

    Hey Tim
    Though I would as well love to see a player in the same vein as Maradona or Pele light up the world cup in 2010, I think the modern game doesn't allow us to have one player dominate the game in the same way. Saying that the players likely to stand out are:

    Christiano Ronaldo- Especially with a fairly weak portugal side, if they win the world cup it could be attributed to him

    Messi- Doubt it, but he could be the one that takes them all the way

    Fernando Torres- Bit harder to stand out as the Spanish team is full of stars already, but he could make the difference like he did in Euro 08

    Drogba- If cote d'ivoire get to the knock out stages, itll certainly be due to him

    Ribery- Long shot, but he's definitely got the potential to be the star player in 2010

    Kaka- Has had a quiet start to the season, but could easily be the dominant player in the Brazil squad if they win it

  • Comment number 68.

    of course

  • Comment number 69.

    Will the NBA produce a new ?
    Not even Maradona could make the PELE era !!!
    With Lionel Messi starring with Barcelona, i think that Argentina will be a dangerous team in the world cup but still, their chances are LOW.

    http://www.sawfer.com

  • Comment number 70.

    I found the link to the Pele wondergoal that Tim mentions from Chile 62.
    the guy was just breathtaking.

    http://video.libero.it/app/play?id=ac3c315c52fe788fb85dbc1c1b0b7628

  • Comment number 71.

    #67

    I agree about Drogba. Everyone keeps saying an African nation may well step up and challenge in the first WC to be held on African soil and Ivory Coast certainly have the potential. I do hope though that Drogba erradicates all the nonsense from his game. The play acting and writhing around like some sort of derranged child really tarnishes his overall contribution. He's a big lad and to see him constantly fling himself about the place really angers me. For someone with the brilliance he posesses, the playground theatrics are really not needed.

    I also reckon the Santa Cruz-Cardozo partnership could be worth keeping an eye on

  • Comment number 72.

    Nice article. I had the great privilege of seeing him play and he was, without any shadow of a doubt, the best player to have ever played football. He had the lot and more. 2 feet, dribble, control, pass, shot and a great header of the ball. Don't even get me started on Maradona who didn't come anywhere near as a player or as a person.

    The nearest I saw to Pele was Ronaldo in the season he played with Barsa. I'm a Madrid fan but I made sure I saw every game of Barsa that season just to see him play.
    That's the sign of an all time great.

  • Comment number 73.

    I THINK THAT WE ARE MISSING ONE HUGE POINT - THAT THE BIRTH OF A STAR WAS WHEN THERE WAS A RISE OF AN UNKNOW - YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT PLAYERS THAT ARE FAIRLY ESTABLISHED.

    I TRULY BELIEVE THAT THE NEXT STAR IS COMING FROM A CONTINENT EAST OF SOUTH AMERICA - YES, I SAID IT FIRST -AN AFRICAN PELE.

    WE HAVE WAITED SO LONG FOR IT - AND NOW THE TIME HAS COME - THE VENUE IS CORRECT, THE TEAMS ARE COMPETING AT WORLD LEVEL, WHY NOT HAVE AN AFRICAN PLAYER RISE TO THE OCCASION -

    A GREAT PLAYER MIGHT BE THE LIKES OF ESSIEN

  • Comment number 74.

    I think you are all forgetting one player in particular. Without doubt he has been the greatest player since Maradona and Di Stefano himself has said he a genious with a football - Zinidine Zidane. FIFA voted him the greatest European player of the last 50 years. You go on about Pele as the greatest player. Pele never proved himself by playing for a European Club. Zidane had the creditentials, he was without doubt the greatest playmaker of all time i.e passing and recieving the ball,g reat trademark skills, two great feet, strength, unbelieveable balance, great in the air etc etc. He proved time and time again he was a big time player. Regarding World Cups, althhough the last one was not entirely brilliant, Zidane v Brazil for me was one of the greatest individual displays of any footballer! Before he lost the head in the finals he had the audacicity to float in a penalty shot on the then best keeper in the world! Even though his image may have been dented he came out of retirement to get France to the World Cup and then on to the finals.

  • Comment number 75.

    73. Nice Caps Lock... Ears are ringing now...

    I think the birth of a star is not something that can happen in the old sense anymore. Even if players are known, there is no better place to captivate the world's imagination than the World Cup.


    Any mention of Pele is always followed by some "but maradona is better". The point of this article, and forgive me if I am wrong Tim, is that the world cup made a global phenomenom out of Pele, to the extent that even in countries where football is not followed, he is known as the greatest ever. The way he has protected his image has helped maintain that, unlike Maradona.

    As for those people that have had a go at Tim for saying that Pele was the best ever, forgive me if I am wrong, but he is on record singing the praise of other great players who for some reason we dont talk about.... DiStefano anyone?

    Anyway, great blog Tim. Looking out at the cold wind of London and missing the Brazilian beaches of my youth...


    As for who will become breakout player, plenty of contenders (most are well known, but the world cup may end with them being seen as a true great).

    Brazil: Kaka, Luis Fabiano (if he keeps up his crazy goalscoring record), Maicon (how on earth Glen Johnson is even talked about as world-class in some places when you have this beast at RB fro Brazil, (along with Alves of course)) and Julio Cesear, easily the best keeper in the world.

    Portugal: Ronaldo

    Argentia: Messi, Aguero

    Spain: Iniesta, Xavi, Villa (who playes much better for spain than torres)

    France: Ribery, Toulalan

    Italy: Cassano (if picked)

    Ivory Coast: Drogba (in his last chance to shine in world cup)

    Camaroon: Eto'o

    Paraguay: Cardozo is a beast, who knows?

    And I am sure there are some great Mexican players I have never heard of, and as a lot of their players, I believe, play domestically, who knows?

    Oh... And England: Rooney (who, though widely acknowledged as a great world class player, needs a great world cup to become a true international superstar), Lampard and Gerard (same reason)

  • Comment number 76.


    the praise for paraguay's cardozo from european based players is interesting.
    when he plays for paraguay he's a target for booing - his record for the national team is not good, and he would seem to have little chance of making the starting line up - nelson haedo and salavador cabanas are first choices on merit, miles ahead of him - there's santa cruz as well - cardozo in an option off the bench along with 'pajaro' benitez.

  • Comment number 77.

    73 - Maradona was established by 1986. So was Pele in 1970. For me, a player to rise and be the star must be very good technically, which is not the case of Drogba and Essien. Nor Torres if you ask me. Messi, Cristiano, Kaka, Ribery, Iniesta, Xavi are.

    To be the ultimate star(like Maradona in 86) you have to set-up everything graciously and alone. Drogba can't set-up everything all by himself let alone graciously.

    56 - Not sure about Lucio, but Kaka is a religious fanatic. Married as a virgin, will become a minister of his church when he quits, married as a virgin, gives huge donations to his church, married as a virgin, donated his world-best-player trophy to the church, married as a virgin.

  • Comment number 78.

    76. Hiya Tim,

    Is Tevez still liked in Argentina? Your comment about Cardozo made me think of him as another player who is highly rated in Europe but utterly flobs for country.

    Is Cardozo so badly viewed that Santa Cruz would get in before him? (given his injury record and his poor league scoring record (apart from one season))

  • Comment number 79.

    I am so convinced in my belief that Pele is the greatest football player of all times that i find it interesting others see Maradona as the best. It shows how subjective the whole preference is.

    As for the new Pele at the wc2010. it will be difficult to find one. The candidates Messi and Ronaldo are good but not great and they play for teams that lack quality depth..

    Brazil of 1970 in addition to PELE had Jairzinho, Tostao, Rivelino, Clodoaldo...and a plethora of talented players..who were purely and simply great players in their own right..

    And to me that is what makes Pele the greatest.. he was great amongst greats.. Maradona was the best of a good Argentine team..not a great one.
    Now, in light of the Thierry Henry debacle of last week..which in my view pales in comparison to Maradona's hand.. i would give Pele a nudge because on the field at least he was examplary throughout... off the field.. Pele despite some of his pronouncements has kept a clean sheet inspiring many young players to adopt his namesake.. Maradona on the other hand has been , to say it mildly, has been a disaster with his weight and illegal substance abuse issues.. That character deficit weight against Maradona in my book.

  • Comment number 80.

    78 - a fit santa cruz is way ahead of cardozo in paraguay standings.

  • Comment number 81.

    The nearest thing to Maradona or pele at a WC sinc e86` has been Ronaldo(brazil). The last wc he was unfit but got 3 goals. WC 2002 he scored in 7 of 8 games and was superb in a fine brazil side. In wc 98 he was also brilliant and at his physical peak. i dont think even messi is at his level (yet). As for poor world cups since 86 i have watched all of them and belive they all have great moments from them and were all good in their own way. Id rank them in the following order(1 being the best).
    1.france 98, 2.usa 94, 3. japan/korea 02, 4. germany 06, italia 90.

    USA 94 probably had the most fine individual performances(Romario,hagi,stoichkov,R baggio)

    France 98 had the best games (brazil v holland,holland v argentina,denmark v brazil, argentina v england, denmark v nigeria)

    Japan/korea 2002 had the best story and individual player:Ronaldo`s comeback and subsequent performance and the surprise of senegal, turkey and s.korea.

    All world cups are great!

  • Comment number 82.

    I think the answer is a resounding no! The issue in todays world is the media available. By the time you get to play for your country, if you have talent you are either known or are on the verge. Ronaldo portugal is not in the same mould as Pele but he could be on fire in the tournament, so too could Messi or Kaka but....we all know these players for a long time now and I think it would be no surprise if they did set the tournament alight. FIFA insisting on the big teams being there any way they can is only going to stop the unknowns breaking through and give for a very dull boring defensive tournament that is worth so much now everyone is afraid to loose instead of being brave enough to win.

  • Comment number 83.

    As someone once said:

    Pele - good

    Maradona - better

    George - Best

    Just a pity that Bingham lacked the insight to take a 36 yr old Bestie to Spain in 1982 - even a 15 min cameo role in each game would be priceless to look back on. I saw him play in that period and although the pace was going, the skill was breath-taking.

  • Comment number 84.

    Interesting stuff as always from Tim.

    I have to agree with Brian de Barra above though - what more could Zidane have done to be put up there, if not alongside the incomparable Pele, certainly alongside Schiaffino, Cruyff & Maradona?

    France were (and patently still are) a poor team since around 2001. Yet whenever Zidane played he lifted them to great things. His virtuoso display v Brazil in 2006 WC QF made a mockery of the hype over Ronaldinho, similarly his masterclass against Portugal outshining Cristiano Ronaldo in the semi-final.

    Zidane played two full world cups (injury denied him an effective 2002). France reached both finals. Its an impact easily parallel to Pele & Maradona.

    I think what is needed is more time - let some nostalgia kick in. Pele had many bad games too, but we don't remember them any more and rightly so. Now we look back and see a near perfect player and bemoan the physicality of today's game. Watch Brazil v Portugal in 1966, and that's real physicality!! The skill level is as high as ever today.

  • Comment number 85.

    Some of the points thrown at Pele and questioning his being one of the best:

    (1): "he did not play in Europe": In that era South American clubs were actually better! Pele's Santos easily beat the European Champions Madrid and Banfica. Last year in CL there were more South American players than European players! Now imagine all these South Americans staying in South America!!! Well during Pele's time they did!! So Pele actually played arguably in tougher league than European leagues.

    (2): "Todays game is so much more physical." Really? If Today's game is so much more physical than why so many commentators complain about todays player being bunch of pansies.

    South American Football is viciously aggressive and physiycal.
    Was it not the English who complained about the Argies in 1966?

    Indeed, watch Messi play in Europe and watch him play in South America.
    Guess in which continent he is given more space and not fouled as much?
    The continent where he is the candidate for the POY!

    South American Football outside of Brazil and perhaps Argentina is rough and tumble.

    I would argue that question should be turned around, would Great European players of 60s and 70s could cope against South American teams? Doubt it. Madrid and Banfica were no match for Santos.

    (3): Pele is not gracious and egoist. YES, what does it has to do with Football? Many people dislike C. Ronaldo; but he is one of th best. Zidane was and is not a very pleasant person. He has a mean streak in him. But that doesn't take away from his greatness as Footballer.

  • Comment number 86.

    Great Blog Tim.
    I agree in many ways every world cup should be remembered for its outstanding player and team. Most recently, Spain capped a brilliant Euro 08 tournament because not only the best team won,it became clear as the tournament progressed they became every neutral's favoured team... but it can be said that there was no equivalent of a Pele to embody the team to legendary status.
    As a kid, the Brazil squad had it all in 1982 - Socrates, Zico, Falcao..That team should have won it hands down were it not for Rossi and Italy, and they changed history and created their own legendary status, but not one that can be shared on a global level like that of Pele's team or Maradona's (in 86)..and that's sort of my point...Certain teams and players do not reach the heights we perceive they merit because it is never a given right for them to achieve or win it.
    Maradona and Argentina in 1986 is the closest thing we've reached in that regard recently - Zidane and France 1998 was soiled by Ronaldo's mystery illness in the final. Matthaus and Germany in 1990 was only warmly received because the Argentines rubbed everyone up the wrong way....(Luckily for Maradona in 86 the hand of God was followed up by one of the most exquisite goals in World Cup History)...you can say the same about the Dutch in the 70's...1994 was so so poor for it'll be remembered so negatively for a Baggio penalty miss...

    For me in my lifetime (b. 71) I can only recall these tournaments with any distinction:

    1.Brazil under-achieving in Spain,allowing Rossi and Italy to shine in 1982
    2.France - Platini, Trezeguet etc in Euro 1984
    3.Argentina - Maradona in Mexico 1986
    4.Holland - Van Basten Gullet Euro 1988
    5.Spain - at last a team favoured by all winning it with the midfield from heaven in Euro 2008

  • Comment number 87.

    Pele never whacked anyone with his head, not even in 66

  • Comment number 88.

    @ interestingclint and raffaza, tim is right. over here in paraguay people have a very bad opinion of tacuara cardozo. He seems to have no confidence when he pulls on the paraguay shirt, and his style is very languid and lethargic, so most people think he doesn't care. It's a huge shame as i think he is actually our best striker in terms of goals, but he just doesn't do the business. The fact he only seems to come on for the last few minutes of the game just to wind down the clock doesn't seem to enter people's minds.

    Haedo Valdez and cabañas are much more popular because they are runners, and that tends to help us on the break, but finishing wise, cabaás is the only one up there with cardozo. and when roque is fit, he's a shoe in, he changes the game for us. i really like pajaro benitez, but he's more like haedo, fast and direct, but lacks the finishing.

  • Comment number 89.

    Will South Africa 2010 produce a New Football Hero?

    Enter Andres Iniesta.
    Influential for Barca and Spain, arguably the best club and country at the moment.

  • Comment number 90.

    collie21 - I wasn't comparing Zidane to Pele, I was comparing him to Maradona (he of the 1982 red card, 1994 drugs ban & 1986 handball).

    U11148453 - more S American players in last season's Champions League than European? No, there weren't, no where near in fact.

  • Comment number 91.

    As people have said before i dont think we will see a new pele or maradona in a world cup for a long time because players today dont play as well for their national teams as they do for their clubs, like probably the best two players in the world messi and c.ronaldo dont play nowhere as good as for their clubs. players that are not as good for their clubs seem to perform better for their national teams than better players.

    i dont why they dont maybe they dont think the world cup and euros are that important and dont have the passion to play for their national team as older players did or they are under too much pressure to play well or basically they dont know how to play with their national teammates.

    i think south africa will be a dull affair where players are tired from the season and just coast through the tournament like the the last world cup and euro was like. and with brazil being the favourites and playing the boring football they are playing, only maybe a underdog team may spice it up or maybe england getting to the final might make it interesting, but i cant see it, with the bigger teams just doing just enough to win games and get through the rounds.

    i wish all the teams would just forget who they are playing and go out to win every game by a few goals and show off what football what is about.

  • Comment number 92.

    Thanks slahaye,

    I always find it interesting how players can be perceived so differently where they play and where they are from.

    andyheapsy, I really don't think Brazil play boring football. I completely agree with Tim's frequently stated view that the world would be better if Brazil played with good ball-playing midfelders, but they are no more boring than any other team (apart from potentially spain, but then spain lost to the USA, thats the price you pay).

    I would think that the English public generally would love the way Brazil play football, it is almost straight out of the Premier League. Physical, fast, hitting people with set peaces and counter-attacks.

    Players are much fitter now, and generally teams are better-drilled defensively, so it is unlikely that the Spains of this world will win the World Cup (though would be lovely if they did)

  • Comment number 93.

    86; France - Platini, Trezeguet etc in Euro 1984...

    Blimey! David Trezeguet is older than he looks!

  • Comment number 94.

    I Tim you are to harsh on the 94 World Cup. It was an entertaining tournament let down only by an anti climatic final.

    Marred arguably with what happened to Andres Escobar, although their group misadventure at the time was also enthralling after coming in with such high hopes. Not to mention Maradona's drug failure, something I was quite gutted about as he had appeared to have made a near miraculous recovery to something if not like his best then to a player capable of having a large impact on rather than off the park one last time.

    I certainly recall a good few enthralling games not least Bulgaria shocking Germany, a Holland and Brazil classic, a Romanian team easy on the eye with Hagi et al.

    I don't think there has been a better tournament since.



  • Comment number 95.

    Hi Tim, i really enjoyed this blog as usual, thanks for your great work.
    I have read about Pele and searched for videos displaying his famous talents, and i have been extremely impressed by what i have found. I have done the same for Maradona and have been impressed, but maybe not so much, probably because of Pele's amazing goal scoring record! Unfortunately i am too young to see these greats in action. The two greats of my lifetime are Zidane and Ronaldinho, who i could watch for hours on end.

    I can't really see anyone becoming as great as Pele in the next couple of years, but the World Cup might produce something/someone special. Now amongst my peers i have a fairly controversial judgement of footballers, so feel free to completely discredit everything i say.
    I honestly feel that if Dunga chose my current favourite player for the world cup, then he will have a massive chance to shine, he is a player who needs a massive stage to show the world just what he can do. He had a big oppourtunity in the Champions League final of 2009, but was unfairly substituted at halftime. This player i describe is Anderson Luis de Abreu Oliveira. I'm not saying that Anderson will become as good as Pele at the 2010 World Cup, or ever in his career, but i think that given the chance, he could be a massive player at the finals in South Africa.

    On a slightly related subject...
    ...Why on earth does Dunga insist on choosing players such as Lucas ahead of the jaw dropping Ronaldinho? or the formerly tipped 'next Ronaldinho' in the form of Anderson? Maybe Dunga's just got a strange sense of humour and likes to make people laugh by choosing the joke that is Lucas?

    and back to a possible World Cup 2010 great?
    Wayne Rooney? I don't want to hype him too much, but i honestly think he can grab the world cup by the neck and pull it England's way.

  • Comment number 96.

    The problem with Anderson is that he is no longer the future Ronaldinho. Since joining Utd he has been converted from an attacking force to a more rounded central midfielder. He should definately get into the squad in my opinion, but he is neither a proper defensive midfielder, a wide midfielder, or Kaka, the only three midfield types dunga seems to use. (and yes, I have decided that Kaka is also a position....)

  • Comment number 97.

    REF 93

    oops! I meant Tigana!

  • Comment number 98.

    Add me to the list of those who rate Pele as the greatest ever, and by a good margin.

    So many posters are too young to have seen these great ones in action. They judge by a relatively tiny, tiny number of rare and grainy clips. Respectfully, that makes them ineligible to judge. Because if you didn't see the great ones in action, for full games, game after game, you have no basis upon which to compare. (That is why the more recent the vote, the higher the votes will be for Maradona, and so on.)

    Pele did things with the ball that I have never seen anyone else remotely approach, and I mean hundreds of unique things. One example: Pele's team was on the attack from midfield, with Pele about ten yards in front of the ball. A teammate was running toward the goal; Pele had his back to him and was facing his own goal, defender tight to him. A teammate passed the ball to Pele crisply. If Pele trapped the ball, the momentum of the counter would be lost. Instead, without looking back, as the ball approached, he chipped into the ball, lifting it up over his shoulder, in the air, and still travelling toward the goal his team were attacking, in one motion. The ball landed on the chest of his teammate, who was still running toward goal. The ball. Landed. On his teammate's. Chest. He couldn't even see the man.

    If I hadn't been there to see this, I would swear this is pure legend, entirely fanciful. And I can say the same for a thousand similar anecdotes. If you were not there to see these players, you just don't know.

    Pele was actually one of the fastest runners in the history of the sport. He was clocked at some ridiculous time for the 100, as a wholly untutored sprinter. The idea that he could not cope with the pace of today's game is woefully wrong, and just ignorant.

    And Pele and Maradona were roughed up more savagely than any others ever to play the game. It was the defensive plan for dealing with a superior player, and defenders did it to them every single game. Silly to think they could not handle today's more physical game. Pele was literally fouled out of the 66 Cup! Maradona was assaulted every time he touched the ball.

    I rate Maradona second only to Pele. But I agree that Zidane was a genius, and his World Cup performances the stuff of legend. I rate him third, and don't think we'll ever see another of his size, grace, and skill in midfield. Ever.

  • Comment number 99.

    I saw a City fan stay to the end of a game once...,

    I stand corrected, I meant more South American than any Eurpean nation.
    But point stand that any suggestion that played in an inferio south American league is totlay false.
    Given that over 100 Brasilians played in CL, and in Pele's time most Brazilans stayed in BRazil, I'd say Pele played against better opposition than his contepraries did in Europe.


  • Comment number 100.

    96. Raffazza...
    I agree that Dunga only seems to use these three positions, but he still chooses Lucas who is described as a centre midfielder, it makes no sense!
    i wish Sir Alex played Anderson as an AMF or where he used to play in Gremio as a left sided attacking midfielder.

 

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